June 24, 2011

David Sings Before Saul (II)

David Playing the Harp before Saul

My king, all of this was yours.
The force of your living
oppressed and overshadowed me.
Come down from your throne and break this harp
that you have wearied.

It is like a tree picked bare, and
through branches that once bore you fruit
a depth is staring as from days to come,
days I cannot know.

Let me sleep no more beside the harp.
Look at my hand, still a boy's hand.
Do you think it could not span
the octaves of a lover's body?

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  1. I feel profound sadness in this reading, darkening in tone from yesterday's first segment of the poem. I hear the plea of the younger, who is being drained of all his youthful energy for the one who does not release him from his duty to sooth. Saul is a selfish being here, wasting that young hand for only his own comfort.

    It reminds me of the Hebrew concept of hesed. My understanding of it is that it is mutuality in relationship, in which the two who 'shake hands' in hesed agree that they will each not only uphold their side of the agreement, but they will also do their best to uphold the other's side of the agreement. It's more like saying 'I'm responsible for 100%' not 'I'm responsible for 50%, and you 50%.' This is a beautiful concept in the relationship with God, and biblically is often translated as 'mercy.' But 'mercy' does not contain the breadth and depth of this idea.

    In this story of Saul and David, I see David doing all the work, and Saul not even holding up his own side, to want to be healed of his deep and violent emotions.

  2. this is one of those pieces that i feel as a "dark gem" in its melding of suffering as a medium for the arrival of goodness. it would take far more space than a comment box to unpack that, but having been in the position of david (and i would imagine many people have at some point known that role) i can see the learning that would otherwise not have taken place. that it is an unconscious act on the part of the saul figure is of course hard to determine.... i especially admire your unpacking of this piece ruth.the insight into hesed is mind-opening. steven

  3. Great observations .. I see David's plaint to Saul as what wasn't written in the Psalms, and the lament is as much toward the Lord on High as King Saul. The poet is tasked - unmercifully -- and receives nothing in return from his source. David aspires to greatness, and his king is petty. Rilke probably felt that way about his public, who largely wasn't interested in his evolving -- keep writing those pretty lyrics, boy! Rilke probably holds God to the same account, extracting such torture from His devotees, offering nothing back but Silence. -- Rilke had to reach to higher heavens (or lower, or inward ones) to find a Being willing to have a Conversation at last ... Brendan


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!